The theory is one of multiple being pursued by investigators as they attempt to determine the origin of the coronavirus that has resulted in a pandemic and killed hundreds of thousands. The US does not believe the virus was associated with bioweapons research, and officials noted that the intelligence community is also exploring a range of other theories regarding the origination of the virus, as would typically be the case for high-profile incidents, according to an intelligence source.
The theory has been pushed by supporters of the President, including some congressional Republicans, who are eager to deflect criticisms of Trump’s handling of the pandemic.
US intelligence is reviewing sensitive intelligence collection aimed at the Chinese government, according to the intelligence source, as they pursue the theory. But some intelligence officials say it is possible the actual cause may never be known.
Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Mark Milley acknowledged this week that US intelligence is taking “a hard look” at the question of whether the novel coronavirus originated in a lab.
“I would just say, at this point, it’s inconclusive although the weight of evidence seems to indicate natural (origin). But we don’t know for certain,” Milley told reporters on Tuesday.
The lab theory has been denied by the Chinese government and many outside experts have also cast doubt on the idea, CNN has previously reported.
A source close to the White House coronavirus task force also cautioned that “every time there is an outbreak someone proposes that the virus or other pathogen came out of a lab.”
One official called the way China has handled dealing with the virus “completely reprehensible” — and intelligence investigators are determined to build a fuller picture of how it originated.
“The Chinese Communist Party didn’t give Americans access when we needed it in that most timely point at the very beginning,” Pompeo said earlier this week. “Then we know they have this lab. We know about the wet (fresh food) markets. We know that the virus itself did originate in Wuhan. So all those things come together. There’s still a lot we don’t know, and this is what the President was talking about today. We need to know answers to these things.”
Some of the officials said the US intends for China pay a price, but recognize the US has to be careful not to inflict a cost on China before the pandemic is under control and until they have a more information about its creation.
CNN’s Jim Acosta contributed to this report.